Sunday, April 27, 2008

Trends in Japan: Japan Continues Search for Academic Triumph

Published Online: April 22, 2008
Published in Print: April 23, 2008
Trends in Japan: Japan Continues Search for Academic Triumph
By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Japan’s education system has long been viewed as a model because of its strong performance on international- comparison tests and its celebrated mathematics curriculum.

But among its citizens, schooling in the nation is seen as inadequate, a sentiment that has led to significant changes over the past two decades. The insecurity has been driven more recently by a protracted economic downturn and increasing social problems among Japanese youths.
In 2002, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology rolled out the Rainbow Plan. Among its priorities are several designed to soften the harsh reputation of the exam-driven system, which had increasingly been blamed for rises in bullying, truancy, and student stress. The plan sought to improve basic academic proficiency in “easy-to-understand classes,” nurture students’ warmhearted tendencies toward community, and create a learning environment that is “enjoyable and free of worries.”

Japanese officials were also hoping to foster some qualities they admire in Americans, particularly those deemed essential in the global economy: critical thinking, innovation, and the ability to adapt knowledge to a variety of tasks.

A new course of study was introduced to direct the changes. It called for a 30 percent reduction in curriculum content, the elimination of Saturday school, and the addition of an integrated course that relied on hands-on and student-directed lessons. At the same time, more control in the country’s centralized system is shifting to local boards, school administrators, and teachers.

The reform program produced a backlash within a few years, after a drop in test scores and amid complaints that children were not achieving to the high levels that had earned Japan its international reputation for educational excellence. More at the EdWeek LINK.


Anonymous said...

Juvenile Delinquency in Japan: Reconsidering the "Crisis" -

I think this provides a satisfactory criticism of the current and past efforts to reform education in the US. It is a moral solution to poverty in general from fringe religious groups (like church of scientology, maharishi, and Moodys, etc) attempting to integrate christian values into academic programs. This book clearly shows why programs like this eventually fail not just structurally, but never actually integrate themselves into school culture, primarily for the reasons cults are rejected by most people (narrow focus and questionable methods - eg. bull baiting.)

The Rainbow Plan was a reform project that among other things, focused on teaching morals to students that were perceived as potential juvenile delinquents. In fact, it was shown that the problem with delinquency in Japanese schools was blown out of proportion and students were considered much less violent and socially adjusted than students in the US or Germany. So the program was deemed unnecessary. Sounds very familiar.,M1

Anonymous said...

Reform protestants (TULIPS) consider poverty to be sinful - they are more prone to say that poverty is a result of laziness and they will usually behave indifferently when confronted with a situation involving poverty - they are also more likely to take advantage of such people, for instance, compensate them for less than they are entitled, simply because those people are poor and therefore sinners...they will frequently confuse ethnicity with poverty. So its correct to look at our reform efforts through the eyes of other cultures, especially Japan.